Friday, July 31, 2009

The Ugly Cake

File this under cake mishaps.

I told you I was not a baker, but you didn't believe me.
This is what used to happen to me too often.

I guess my streak is over.

I decided to be creative with my plain vanilla cake recipe and add buttermilk, chocolate chips and walnuts.

I was going to make a nice sugar crust with the beautiful vanilla sugar that Janet from Ladue & Crew sent me, along with homemade bourbon vanilla, and lots of fig treats! Thank you Janet, and it's not even my birthday!

Well, as you can see, the cake stuck to the pan and fell apart.
I guess I did not grease the pan well enough, and the eager beaver that I am, removed it too early from the loaf pan instead of waiting for it to cool.

Another mishap: the chips and nuts were too heavy for this batter and all sunk to the bottom, helping the cake stick to the pan.
No, I didn't remember to coat them with flour.

I tried my best to put it back together with a spatula and plate it.

Though this was one ugly cake, it was DELICIOUS!!!!
The vanilla sugar crust was beautiful and the buttermilk made the cake nice and light.

Never judge a book by its cover!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Grilled Eggplant Caprese Stacks

 eggplant caprese2

I love the beautiful produce that is available in New Jersey during the summer months.

I savor every gorgeous beefsteak tomato, eggplant and zucchini that is falling off the vine.

Though I can get tomatoes, basil and almost anything all year long, there is something special about using local produce in season.
It just tastes and smells better.

I had my first Jersey tomatoes from the shore this week and they were spectacular.
I ate one like an apple, just bit into it. A real treat.

Here is a nice way to show off the bounty from your garden, or from someone else's!

Grilled Eggplant Caprese Stacks:

1 large eggplant, sliced into 1/2" rounds
kosher salt and olive oil

1 ripe beefsteak tomato, sliced
1 ball of fresh mozzarella, sliced (I love the bufala mozzarella from Italy, pricey, but so worth it)
basil leaves
pesto for drizzling

Brush your eggplant slices with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt.
Place on a hot grill and turn once after you start seeing grill marks, about 3 minutes on each side.

Layer your eggplant slices with a slice of tomato and a slice of cheese.

Top with another eggplant slice and tuck in some basil leaves in between.

Drizzle with balsamic vinegar or pesto before serving.
Best served at room temperature.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Recession Proof Panzanella Salad


Don't throw out that stale bread, don't you know there is a recession going on?

Make a panzanella salad.

A gorgeous summer salad made with stale bread and tomatoes.
The bread will absorb the dressing and revive that petrified loaf of bread.

If I am making this for company and forget to buy the loaf of bread a few days prior, I cheat and toast up bread chunks and make croutons. It has the same effect as using stale bread.

Last night I had a 3 day old baguette that needed a saw to cut thru, but I did it.

I cut it into cubes and threw it together with chopped tomatoes.

This salad is best in the late summer when you can mix all the varieties of beautiful Jersey tomatoes that are in season, red, cherry, yellow, beefsteak, etc.

Panzanella Salad: serves 8


1/3 cup of balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup of good olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
kosher salt & pepper


1 stale baguette, ciabatta or bastone type of bread (the older the better!), torn or cut into chunks
2 lbs. plus of Roma, cherry or beefsteak tomatoes, cut into chunks
1/3 cup of basil leaves cut into chiffonade (rolled and sliced thin)
1/2 red onion, sliced thin
1/2 cup of kalamata olives, chopped

Mix your salad ingredients and place them in a large bowl.

Whisk your dressing and pour over the bread and tomato mixture until bread cubes absorb the dressing. You don't have to use all of the dressing, see how moist you like it.

Make at least one hour ahead and leave at room temperature, so flavors and dressing absorb the bread and tomatoes.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Garlic Scape & White Bean Dip

scape dip

I saw this gorgeous dip on ZESTED and had to make it, but what are scapes?

I found out and I will love them forever.

Scapes are garlic shoots, and are lighter and fresher than the sometimes harsh, redolent taste of regular garlic.

Though they were all over the markets in the late spring, I was happy to find them at my farmers' market last weekend, and the rest is history.

I used them in scrambled eggs, as a garnish for my artichoke tapenade, and in this wonderful dip.

I served them on crostini (what else?) and put some rolled Genoa salami florets on top.

They don't give you bad breath, and they are very pretty just decorating the plate!
What a bonus!

Garlic Scape & White Bean Dip: (adapted from Zested & The NY Times)

1/3 cup sliced garlic scapes (3 to 4)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, more to taste
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt, more to taste
Ground black pepper to taste
1 can (15 ounces) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup good extra virgin olive oil, more for drizzling

In a food processor, process garlic scapes with lemon juice, salt and pepper until finely chopped. Add beans and process to a rough purée.

With motor running, slowly drizzle olive oil through feed tube and process until fairly smooth. Pulse in 2 or 3 tablespoons water, or more, until mixture is the consistency of a dip. Add more salt, pepper and/or lemon juice, if desired.

Serve dip drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with coarsely ground salt and pepper.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Lentil Salad w/ Chicken & Ceci

There is a great cafe on Sullivan St. in NYC called Once Upon a Tart.
They make great sandwiches, salads, tarts and delicious cookies.

Their most popular selling lunchtime salad is their chickpea & lentil salad with a sundried tomato vinaigrette. It is delicious. You just feel healthier after eating it.

Well, I made my own version of this salad, using their recipe for the vinaigrette and throwing in some leftover grilled chicken. It was a delicious and filling lunch.
And good for you! I know you don't want to hear that!

Lentils with Chickpeas & Chicken Salad:

1 cup of cooked Beluga lentils
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cucumber, peeled and diced small
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 roasted red pepper
1/4 cup of fresh torn basil
15 oz. can of drained and rinsed ceci (chickpeas)

leftover sliced grilled chicken breasts (optional)
3 tbsp of sundried tomato vinaigrette (recipe to follow)

Sundried Tomato Vinaigrette (adapted from Once Upon a Tart Cookbook)

12 sundried tomato halves
1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup of fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup or more of olive oil

Using a food processor, pulse the dressing ingredients together, adding the olive oil last thru the feed tube until you get the consistency you like. (*This is like a pesto and makes a lot. The flavors are very concentrated, so add olive oil as needed).

Add all of your salad ingredients in a large bowl and toss with about 3 tbsp of this thick dressing. Add oil to thin it.

Add your chicken slices in at the end and toss another turn until coated.
Garnish with fresh basil leaves!


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Tomato Jam & Earl

Wasn't there a video game called Toejam and Earl?
If not, just ignore the title of this post, I am too old to know this pop culture.

Here is the excellent tomato jam recipe from my Kobe Sliders post.
I piled this lovely spicy condiment on top of the little burgers and melted smoked mozzarella on top to make this a great burger.

I guess you could call this a chutney, since it is made w/ cider vinegar and spices.
It would also be wonderful served with a cheese course or on grilled chicken.

Spicy Tomato Jam:

8 plum or Roma tomatoes, cut into dice
1/2 cup of chopped white onions
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp curry powder
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tbsp of chili powder (depends on how spicey you like it or how spicy your chili powder is)
1/3 cup of golden raisins (optional)

Throw all ingredients in a heavy stock pot and bring to a boil.
Turn down to a low simmer and cook 45 minutes until thickened, uncovered.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Clafoutis Part 2


Am I allowed to post the same thing twice in one month,
or will I be arrested by the food blog police?

I will take my chances.

You see I had no choice but to make another cherry clafoutis, this time a different recipe, because my friend Martha dropped off 5 lbs. of freshly picked cherries from her property in upstate New York.
Her lovely 81 yr old German mother in law picked them just for me!
She washed them and removed the stems too..........(you'd think she could've pitted them for me too!). Thank you Elfriede!

These were not ordinary cherries. In fact, in all of my life, I've never tasted a cherry quite like this.
Every single one was dark red, heavy with juice, and sweet.
I was never a big cherry fan until now.
This is what cherries are supposed to taste like.

What to do with 5 lbs. of ripe cherries?

Make more chutney and another clafoutis.

I liked the recipe I made last time, but in case you haven't made this recipe yet, I am giving you another chance.

This one is from my latest purchase, A Platter of Figs. Written by the head chef of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, who lives in California 6 mos. of the year and Paris the other half.

This one was more like an eggy pudding because it uses 6 eggs vs. the 3 eggs from the first recipe I made.
I also made this one in a more traditional 12" cast iron skillet, which made it a more rustic presentation.

The other difference in the recipe was that David's recipe called for 2 cups of brown sugar, the other recipe used white sugar. I think today's clafoutis was more like the traditional French recipes, but I loved them both.

I was very proud that I made my first clafoutis last month, and when I mentioned it to a French woman I was doing an appraisal for, her response was "Big deal, it's crepe batter poured over fruit, anybody can do that".
No comment.

Cherry Clafoutis (make one already!!!): recipe from A Platter of Figs

2 lbs. of ripe cherries, pitted (have fun!)
1/4 cup of sliced almonds
2 cups of brown sugar
6 eggs
2 tbsp flour
1 1/2 cups of whole milk
1/4 tsp almond extract
splash of kirsch (I omitted this)

Grease a 12" cast iron skillet or gratin dish with butter. Lay your cherries on the bottom of the pan and sprinkle the almonds over the fruit.

Mix the batter and pour over the fruit.

Bake in a 375 oven for 40-45 minutes. The middle will be wiggly when you take it out of the oven. It will set. Wait about 30 minutes before serving.


Because of the amount of eggs used, I would like this better served for brunch.
You can make the batter the night before and just pour it over the fruit.

"Anybody can do that!".

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Pearl Couscous w/ Roasted Tomatoes, Olives & Arugula

I know it's the middle of the summer and I haven't posted my very favorite, #1 best summer salad yet.

I've been holding out on you.

Well, you can't be mad at me now, because here it is.
It is so good. I promise.

Pearl couscous is also known as Israeli couscous. Don't substitute the smaller Moroccan couscous in this recipe. It just won't work.
If you can't find the pearl couscous, then substitute orzo.
Couscous is a pasta product, not a grain, as some people might think.
I think that is why I love it so much!

Best Summer Salad Recipe:

1 package or box of Israeli pearl couscous, cooked in salted water and drained

1 lb. (or 2 of those net bags) of cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup of torn basil leaves
1/2 cup of kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1 cup of whole arugula leaves (or half a bag of prewashed baby arugula)

2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar (for roasting the tomatoes)
olive oil
kosher salt

After you have cooked your couscous as per package directions (10 minutes usually does it for mine), drain it and place in a bowl. Do not rinse.

While you are cooking your couscous, start roasting your tomatoes.

To roast cherry tomatoes, line a baking sheet w/ foil and spread out your tomatoes.
Sprinkle liberally w/ kosher salt and drizzle liberally with olive oil.
Pour your 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar over the tomatoes and roast in a 425F oven for about 20 minutes until the tomatoes are blistering.

Meanwhile, add your chopped olives, and basil leaves to the bowl of warm couscous.

When the tomatoes are done, pour them along with all of their liquids into the bowl w/ the couscous. Toss all ingredients together. Let sit about 5 minutes.

Now add your fresh arugula to the bowl and gently mix.
I like to spread this out on a flat platter to show off all the ingredients.
The juices from the tomatoes along w/ the balsamic vinegar make the dressing. There is no need to add anymore oil or vinegar.

It is best served at room temperature.

I promise not to hold out on you anymore!